An educational toolkit developed by the Royal College of GPs (RGCP), in collaboration with hearing loss charity RNID and NHS England & Improvement, aims to support GPs to deliver care for patients with hearing loss.

The RGCP tookit, sponsored by the British Irish Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (BIHIMA), was created to support GPs to consult effectively with deaf patients and provide training and support around deafness and hearing loss in primary care.

The  toolkit of educational resources includes podcasts, an animation awareness video, a GP trainee teaching powerpoint, GP surgery charter and online learning modules, screencast and a RCGP accredited deaf awareness online course.

Prior to the Coronovirus outbreak, in early 2020, BIHIMA conducted a survey of 1,000 UK consumers to understand how they accessed hearing loss services via their GPs. The results showed that less than a quarter of UK adults (24%) think their GP provides enough information on hearing care. Despite this the majority, 47% of respondents would go to their GP as the first port of call to find out more information about the association between hearing loss and other health problems. Over half (54%) of those aged 55+ would go to their GP first for this information, whereas those aged 25-34 are most likely to go online first (35%).

In a recent survey, following lockdown, of people who were deaf or have hearing loss by RNID, more than 70% of respondents said they ‘did not feel confident that their communication needs would be met during a remote appointment’ and over half admitted they had ‘put off’ seeking advice from their GP because of remote care, meaning they were at risk of missing out on vital medical care.

BIHIMA Chairman Paul Surridge said: “The survey insights reinforced our belief as manufacturers of hearing instruments, that better hearing loss education for GPs is essential. We were delighted to have the opportunity to support the RGCP and RNID’s plans to develop these critical and excellent resources to improve the access patients get to hearing care services. And in light of the difficulties encountered in provision of care during the pandemic, these resources couldn’t be more essential.”

Dr Devina Maru, RCGP national clinical champion for deafness and hearing loss, said: “We are pleased to be working with the RNID to create resources to help support GPs communicate with deaf patients during both remote and face to face consultations, to ensure GPs feel equipped to deliver the best possible care and patients feel most comfortable when accessing our services.”

Ayla Ozmen, head of research and policy at RNID, said: “Under the Accessible Information Standard, all health and social care providers must identify, record and meet people’s specific communication needs. Even in these exceptional times, accessible standards must still be upheld and there are simple options that will improve the accessibility of services for people who are deaf or have hearing loss. We are thrilled to be working with the Royal College of GPs to help highlight the needs of people who are deaf or have hearing loss.”

There are 1 in 5 adults with hearing loss in the UK and it is recognised as a major public health issue. The Department of Health and NHS England’s Action Plan on Hearing Loss (2015) lists ‘improved access to wider health services’ as a key outcome measure for service improvement. However, the survey findings suggest that people with hearing loss still face challenges when accessing healthcare. The development of these educational resources is critical to ensure GPs deliver the best possible care to patients so that access to essential primary care services improve.

Find out more about the Deafness and hearing loss toolkit.